Think, the all-electric car maker from Norway, says it's back in production and will start delivering versions of its Think City to fleet customers before Christmas.
Oi! It's a miracle!
And it comes right before 2010, the anticipated year of the electric car. General Motors, Ford, Nissan, Fisker Automotive and others will launch hybrids and electrics then.
Production for the Think City is taking place at a factory owned by Valmet Automotive, a strategic investor, in Finland. Although Think has delivered token numbers of cars to consumers in Denmark, the Netherlands and a few other countries, fleet vehicles will likely constitute a large portion of the company's business.
The City is a town car, meaning that it has a limited range and a smaller battery than something like a Tesla Roadster, but it will also cost less. The price tag, when the battery is added in, will still be substantially higher than what a gas car costs. Rebates and incentives, though, will make the car competitive, ideally, in some nations. In Denmark, for instance, consumers pay high automotive registration fees – it's one of the reasons Danish cars are no frills affairs, Danes tell me. Electric cars don't have to pay. Ergo, even a Tesla Roadster can be economically competitive with regular cars. Finland puts penalties on gas guzzlers too. Most nations, though, don't go to those extremes.
In November, Think told us that it had 2,300 customers on its waiting list for the Think City, confirming a rumor from the summer that a waiting list was building despite financial troubles at the company. Think's waiting list includes both individuals and businesses that have placed deposits on the car as well as municipal transportation authorities that have placed orders for cars, according to company spokesman James Andrew. (Tesla Motors meanwhile has a 1,800 person waiting list for its Model S and Fisker has 1,400 people down for the Fisker Karma.)
Think is one of the older companies in electrics and one of the industry's great melodramas. Think got its start in the early 1990s in Scandinavia and developed a prototype in 1991. Ford subsequently bought it but then spun it out again in 2003 as the existing company. In early 2007, the company said it would start shipping cars to customers in Norway and the U.K. in the fall of that year and to U.S. customers in 2008. In July 2007, it raised $60 million in VC funds. Before that, Think had raised $25 million.
The first cars finally came to the market in late November 2008. They were only available at a single dealer in Norway. A few weeks later in December 2008 Think had to halt production due and said it might go out of business unless it received an injection of around $29 million dollars. the Norwegian government turned the company down.
"We are in a very serious situation," said Richard Canny, the relatively new CEO, said in a news conference, Reuters reported. "We would not have taken these actions if it was not serious. We need to intensify efforts to bring in new capital."
Then over the summer, the lifeline was thrown out: Battery maker Ener1, Valmet Automotive, a VC firm associated with the Norwegian government and others came forward with approximately $47 million in stages.
Photo via Think.